Space Debris Cleanup Suggestions Ignored

Space debris cleanup suggestions by fiction writers have been made repeatedly; all have been ignored by the world's space agencies. Now, we have a real problem.

This past week, ISS astronauts have ducked into a Russian space capsule for protection from space debris:

The three astronauts, two Americans and one Russian, moved into the station's attached Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft at 12:35 p.m. EDT (1635 GMT) as a safety precaution in case the debris - a small piece of a spent satellite motor - slammed into the orbiting lab and ripped a hole in its outer hull. The astronauts were ready to evacuate the space station if the debris hit the station and depressurized its living space.

This follows the incident last month in which a Russian cosmos 2251 satellite improbably collided with an Iridium 33 satellite, creating enormous debris clouds:

According to an e-mail alert issued by NASA today, Russia's Cosmos 2251 satellite slammed into the Iridium craft at 11:55 a.m. EST (0455 GMT) over Siberia at an altitude of 490 miles (790 km). The incident was observed by the U.S. Defense Department's Space Surveillance Network, which later was tracking two large clouds of debris.

"This is the first time we've ever had two intact spacecraft accidentally run into each other," said Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It was a bad day for both of them."


(Animation of satellite collision debris clouds)

Satellite debris has been a problem for many years. Of course, you'd think NASA and all the other space agencies would be ready with a solution.

Wrong.

Science fiction writers of all sorts, on the other hand, have been sounding the warning for generations, and weaving the solutions into popular culture.

For example, take a look at the 1977 television series Quark. This comedy, created by legendary writer Buck Henry, described the activities of the United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser, an interstellar garbage scow.


(Richard Benjamin and the Barnstable twins)

Richard Benjamin played Adam Quark, who worked to clean up trash in space. He is ably assisted by the Bettys, played by the Doublemint twins (Cyb and Patricia Barnstable).

In his 1978 novel The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke uses Operation Cleanup to make sure that low earth orbit is clear of debris for the newly constructed space elevator.

Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task. Their radars - designed to locate oncoming missles at extreme ranges with no advance warning - could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age. Then their lasers vaporized the smaller satellites, while the larger ones were nudged into higher and harmless orbits.

Fans may also recall Planetes, an anime series published by Makoto Yakimura in Japan starting in 1999. The series follows a team of debris cleaners who clear space junk from flight paths.


Planetes cover art

Sources: Station Astronauts Take Shelter from Space Debris and U.S. Satellite Destroyed in Space Collision; thanks to Moira for the tip and a reference.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/19/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

JAXA's Int-Ball Drone To Follow Astronauts In Space Station
'I want you to build me some of those.' MIT Professor David Miller, 1999.

Moon Express Lunar Robot Mining: Shine On, Harvest Moon
'The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine... ' - Pournelle and Niven, 1981.

Asteroid Deflection With DART
'This obelisk is one huge deflector mechanism...' Gene Roddenberry, 1968.

Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
'When unfolded and unrolled... it became a tough, gleaming film.' - Jack Vance, 1962.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

RFID Chipped Employees Of Three Square Market
'About a third of the people in Manhattan have replaced their Freedom Card with a radio-frequency chip...'

JAXA's Int-Ball Drone To Follow Astronauts In Space Station
'I want you to build me some of those.'

Amazon Patents Annoying Robot That Follows You
'The... machine, being homotropic, headed toward them, still bleating...'

Hand Gestures And Body Poses Control Devices
'He waved his hand... the circuit switched...'

Rovable Robots Crawl Across Your Body
'Most of the crew have the tiny imp ride on their shoulder...'

Sansar Social Virtual Reality Platform In 2017?
'And just as a daydreamer forgets his actual surroundings, and sees other realities...'

Cellphone Harvests Power From Ambient Radio Signals And Light
A battery-free phone.

Desktopography Makes Virtual Desktops Real
'Ender doodled on his desk, drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to display them in three dimensions...'

LaWS Laser Can Take Out Rogue Drones
Looks like a weapon for the Runaway squad!

Moon Express Lunar Robot Mining: Shine On, Harvest Moon
'The bulldozer moved through the lunar strip mine... '

Liquid Body Armor For TALOS Exoskeleton
'... instantly became rigid all over when something struck it...'

Hyperloop One Video Shows It Works!
'Complete evacuation of the interior of the tubes [and] a wave that provides the new propulsive energy for the cars...'

Chairless Chair Exoskeleton By Sapetti
'Earth's scientists... devised rigid metallic clothing...'

Publishing Technologies In Science Fiction
Well, this should be enough references to start...

Russia Working On Military Exoskeletons
'Вы похожи на большую стальную гориллу...'

3D Printed Bionic Chinese Skin
Your skin is ready!

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.